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by Annie on May 3, 2019
The Visual Media Conference was a brilliant day full of new design concepts, core philosophies and ethical attitudes. I was particularly excited for the talks around sustainable packaging – two passions brought together and discussed by experts.
The first talk was by Joanna Stephenson, a Marketing Partner at Parkside Flexibles. She discussed their Percol brief – to create sustainable, compostable coffee packaging. This product became the first fully compostable packaging for all types of coffee. It was made from bio-based materials that successfully act as barriers from oxygen, moisture and smells – this protection extends the shelf life of roasted coffee, ground coffee and coffee beans. Customers are able to purchase the coffee in a shop and then fully compost the packaging themselves in their garden at home. The packaging will break down within 26 weeks.
Joanna also highlighted the brand Two Farmers, founded by Mark Green and Sean Mason. They grow award winning potatoes on their farm in Herefordshire and have become the first crisp brand in the UK to launch packaging in the form of a completely compostable bag. Their ethics run throughout the whole business as they state that their ‘potatoes are stored, cooked and packed using renewable energy where possible’ and customers are again able to compost their purchased crisp bags in their own home over a 26 week period.
Joanna presented a perspective that initially appeared to oppose everything we are currently being told – that plastic is not the problem. She highlighted that there is so much of it, in our homes to the oceans, because it is so good for its purpose. She informed us that the problem is not the plastic itself, it is the consumer behaviour of littering and a refusal to recycle. Joanna stated that we should not aim to live in a plastic free world but instead aim to live in a world free of single use plastics. A world where plastic is used in medical equipment but it is not used to wrap the cucumbers in supermarkets. Both industries and consumers must be educated to reduce the amount of plastic used and increased the behaviour or recycling and reusing.
The second talk was by Gillian Garside-Wight, Packaging Technology Director at Sun Branding Solutions. She entirely supported Joanne’s perspective, introducing us to the phrase ‘wishful recyclers’ – those who throw something in the recycling bin and hope for the best. She pointed out the something being ‘recyclable’ is simply not enough, it is the consumer’s action of recycling that is required to complete the process. She stated that the world does not have a plastic problem, but a behaviour problem. We cannot leave full responsibility to companies providing us with recyclable products as we are personally responsible to recycle the materials that we are provided with. This shifts the focus away from physical materials and more towards attitudes and ethics.
Gillian introduced us to an organisation whose ethics and sustainable attitudes are evident throughout their entire company. The Good Marts in Los Angeles have reinvented the concept of a convenience store, selling healthy, sustainable products in a socially conscious space. The founder states that the shop ‘is meant to serve its community’ and that they have ‘balanced accessibility with planet-friendliness (no single serve plastic bottles will ever hit shelves)’.
Faced with the issue that sustainable products generally cost more to produce and source – customers are faced with a choice when stood choosing a product… the cheaper option, or the sustainable option. When faced with this competition The Goods Marts chose to compromise on their costs, but not their ethics. By selling 8oz coffee for $1.25 they ensure the sustainable option replaces and becomes the affordable choice.
Visit their website and instagram feed to learn their core standards, be introduced to a variety of sustainable brands and see the beautiful dynamic branding. It is an aesthetic and conscious example of how the attitude and practice of sustainability helps all things to improve, thrive and grow – both our planet, community and social relations.